God sent His Son Jesus to be born as a human and do what no other human could do: live a life without sin so that He was eligible to take the penalty for our sins on Himself. The penalty for sin is death, because sin (which we are all guilty of) causes death. Therefore death is the penalty. “An eye for an eye; a life for a life.” Justice.
Jesus was not only a man. He was also God. Deity. The 2nd person of the Trinity. There are those who don’t believe this, and those who don’t believe that Jesus ever claimed to be God. They claim His disciples added that after His death.
This is important, because if Jesus was not God, then He was not without sin, because He lied. Also God the Father twice said that He was “well pleased” with Jesus. (Matthew 3:17 and 17:5) If God is well pleased with a liar, then God is not without sin and we are in a lot of trouble, unless the entire Bible is myth, in which case we are free to live our lives as we choose and POOF! cease to exist when we die. That’s not an attractive fate.
So: did Jesus even claim to be God? Yes He did, blatantly and publicly, to those who were in a position to test His claim and had the responsibility to proclaim it to their nation. Who in turn had the responsibility to proclaim Him to the world.
The most obvious, provocative claims Jesus made to deity are found in John chapter 8. He lit a fire in verse 12 by saying that He was the light of the world. The Pharisees called Him on that, saying, “You’re testifying about yourself. Your testimony is not true.” He refuted that with a claim that His Father testified about Him also.
Jesus ratcheted up the intensity when He told the Pharisees, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I, I am, you will die in your sins.” (v. 24)
Those emphasized words are in the Greek “ego eimi”. Literally “I, I am.” Normally, to say in Greek “I am a fishmonger, a tax collector, your drunken brother-in-law”, you’d only say “eimi”. The words “ego eimi” could have indicated that Jesus was claiming to BE the God of Moses (see Exodus 3:14). But the Pharisees did not jump to such a drastic conclusion immediately. It probably didn’t enter their minds, actually, at this point.
So Jesus said it again: “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I, I am …” (v. 28) There follows a lengthy discussion in vs. 25, in the course of which, Jesus stated that He “proceeded forth and came from God”, and challenged His critics to prove Him guilty of “even one sin”. This to the most nit-picking bunch of religious zealots in the world. No one responded.
Since the Jews either “didn’t get it” or were afraid to take it to its logical conclusion, Jesus told the Pharisees, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I, I am.”
At that point the Pharisees had no choice but to acknowledge that Jesus was God or apply the penalty for blasphemy – stone the blasphemer to death. “Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.”
The Pharisees, the religious and legal national leaders, heard the declaration of Jesus’ deity and understood exactly what He meant. On a second occasion when they were preparing to stone Him, Jesus asked why. They acknowledged His claim to deity in their response:
“Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, ‘Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?’ The Jews answered Him, saying, ‘For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.’ “ (Luke 10:31-32)
Positive ID. Whether they believed it or not, the Pharisees gave us 100% positive proof that King Jesus claimed to be God in a human body.
There are many other implicit claims to deity made by Jesus. The Jews had finally gotten it fixed in their minds that there was only one God, and He alone is worthy of worship. So whenever someone worshipped Jesus, by not forbidding them, He was implicitly saying, “I am God and therefore it is correct for you to worship me.” See Matthews 8:2, 9:18, 14:33, 28:9. Even angels do not accept worship. (Revelation 19:10 and 22:9) Yet Jesus did accept worship.
Jesus officially replaced the “Old Covenant” God had made with Abraham, including the entire Mosaic system of sacrifice for sins, with the “New Covenant” based on the sacrifice of His body and blood.
“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’ Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.’ “
The disciples, every one a Jew, knowing the earth-shaking meaning of His words, accepted His words and therefore accepted Jesus as God. Otherwise He would have been speaking extreme blasphemy and they would have abandoned Him, and maybe reported Him to the Pharisees themselves. After Jesus’ ascension back to Heaven, many if not most of the disciples continued as much as they were allowed to in the Mosaic tradition. They didn’t see faith in Jesus as a new religion, rather as the fulfillment of their religion.
The Pharisees said He was not God. The disciples said He was. What do you say?